Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg and Failing Schools

Recently, Oprah Winfrey hosted a special show, where she invited three guests to talk about the failing school system in our country. It was sparked by the movie that came out this past weekend (October 1st), “Waiting for Superman.” (More on that in another post.)

The three guests were unlikely partners:

1. Chris Christie — Republican Governor of New Jersey
2. Cory Booker — Democrat Mayor of Newark
3. Mark Zuckerberg — Founder of Facebook

The thing all three of these men had in common was a desire to re-invent school programs. Each knew that schools were failing and each had something different to bring to the table. Two surprises surfaced that made the show newsworthy. First, a liberal and a conservative realized they had more in common than they realized and could work together to improve education. Second, Mark Zuckerberg decided to give a gift of $100 million to help make it happen. (His timing was great. It didn’t hurt that The Social Network movie came out this past weekend, which gave a not so affirming profile of Facebook’s founder. This donation likely helped him.)

The bottom line? I believe this is what must happen to transform public education. Government funded schools are in trouble. Scarcity is in the air. Both teachers and administrators feel like they’re victims of the system. Unfortunately, victims often don’t lead well. Money will have to come from new sources; private sector donors who find public servants willing to work together to bring about the needed change. The good news is — when these parties come together, new expectations can be placed on what’s happening in the classroom. I’m hoping that New Jersey can produce a prototype for other districts across the country to follow.

Question: What do you think needs to happen to transform schools in America?


Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg and Failing Schools